Headed south from Edinburgh on the A701/A703 and turned left onto the Temple and Gorebridge road about 3 miles south of Leadburn. A mile or so on we reached the gate to Portmore Estate and parked in the lay-by next to it (NT255514). We started the hike at the back of 9am, with showers forecast for the morning, followed by rain in the afternoon. Hopefully we'd be back off the hills by then.
Passing through the side gate on foot, we started along the track towards Portmore Reservoir.
The track passes between fields for a short distance before continuing through pine trees. Arriving at a fork where the track splits to go either side of the reservoir, we catch our first (non)glimpse of the hills, shrouded in low cloud.
We take the right-hand fork around the north-west side of the reservoir.
Soon the track moves away from the edge of the water and enters the woods.
After about half a mile, a cleared area to the right of the track is reached, and then the track forks at NT254501. We take the left-hand track, which rises between a dense pine plantation on the left and deciduous woodland on the right.
Continuing along the track, we pass though a varied woodland and heather landscape.
About half a mile form the previous fork are the Northshield Rings - the remains of a prehistoric fort. Walking into the centre, several concentric defensive banks are crossed.
Returning to the track at another fork, we took the right-hand track and continued through the woods which vary from deciduous to pine. Two rusty old drums are found on the right just before the track leaves the relative darkness under the pines and enters bright deciduous woodland once more. Turning left at this point we left the main path and headed for the edge of the wood and a gap in the wall. Vaulting the fence, we left the woods behind and headed for the hills.
Heading south through the field below, we soon picked up an old path through the thistles, now visible only from the levelling of the slope rather than any actual track.
Climbing a gate, we than headed down the steep grassy slope towards a gate at the bottom. On the opposite slope, the straight course of a stream can be seen descending the slope through a field of grass. At the top of the field, the map indicates a path leading round Milky Law.
The sun is beating down at this point, and it was hot work ascending the slope of Milky Law. Once at the top of the field and through a gate, we pick up a path, indistinct at first, passing through the bracken across the slope in a north-easterly direction. It seems we missed the intended path a little higher up the slope, a fact that becomes apparent when we find ourselves following a sheep path towards a steep gully heading up to the summit of Brown Dod.
Cutting back south, we meet the actual track further up the slope, and continue up along it until it met a broader track coming down the east side of Milky Law. Joining this track we were soon obliquely ascending the southern flank of Brown Dod.
Once high up on the eastern side of Brown Dod, we decided to leave the track and make a bee-line for the top. The fog had caught up with us by this point, and coats were donned as we climbed through the cloud. Reaching Brown Dod's summit, we found it to be marked rather unceremoniously with an old wooden gate in a fence bisecting the hill. Climbing over the gate, we struck north on a path towards the main summit of the day - Dundreich.
Once the cairn on Dundreich was reached, the clouds had parted enough to afford a decent view down into the valley between the Moorfoots and the Pentland Hills, though the Pentlands themselves remained obscured by cloud.
The last hill on the itinerary was Jeffries Corse, and we set off on the short trek north-east, down a bit and back up. The route to the top followed a fence and traversed some rather boggy ground. There wasn't much to see here really, even less so in the fog. The cairn marked on the map is nothing more than a grassy mound now.
From this point we planned leave the path and head west to join the path from Dundreich back down to the reservoir. Poor visibility was starting to become a concern. However, if we followed a course due west we ought to be able to pass above the head of the steep gully and regain the beaten track.
Within a couple of minutes of setting off on this course it started to rain quite heavily. With map and phone now stowed away to be kept dry, I held onto the compass and guided us as close to west as could be managed through the long, soaking grass and uneven, boggy ground.
Having drifted north slightly, we arrived right at the top of the gully. There was a brief thought of descending that way instead of struggling on uphill to where the path must be. However, a quick check of our GPS position on the phone revealed that we were indeed very close to the path, and we decided this was by far the safer option. (Good job too - descending the gully would have entailed a steep scramble on treacherously wet ground back up to meet the path further up, or else following it around the wrong side of Loch Hill and ending up a mile or more east of where we wanted to be.)
Sticking to the path and with the fence on our left, we continued up the slope in a north-westerly direction. Crossing the brow of a col and with visibility improving, we were relieved to see the reservoir emerge through the mist on the other side.
Continuing down the edge of Fala Steel wood we soon gained the track at the reservoir's edge.
We followed the track along the eastern edge of the water, back to the fork we had passed earlier in the day.
From here we retraced our steps back along the track to the road and the car.
1. Though the difference in altitude from the start of the walk (284m) to the summit of Dundreich (623m) was 339m, the actual height climbed during the walk was around 575m. This difference was due mainly to the height gained walking through the wood and then lost again heading down to the foot of Milky Law, before starting up again in earnest.
2. A simpler route would have been to not bother with the summits of Brown Dod and Jeffries Corse and stay on the track up and over Dundreich and back down. We wouldn't have had the difficulty with the fog and the rain wouldn't have hit until we were well in sight of the reservoir. That said, part of the point of this walk was to practice navigation with map and compass rather than relying on GPS/phone and a walk guide. In that respect it was good experience, since the compass and the prior planning were the main reason we got down from Jeffries Corse in a (relatively) straightforward fashion.
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